Sen. Markey meets with GCET, Local Linx

  • John Lunt, general manager of GCET, right, shows U.S. Sen. Ed Markey the POP (point of presence), in the basement of City Hall, which is one of GCET’s routing and switching arrays in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, in green, talks with people on Bank Row in Greenfield on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • John Lunt, general manager of GCET, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and Chief of Staff Dani Letourneau meet U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, at right, in front of City Hall in Greenfield on Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2021 5:28:13 PM
Modified: 11/23/2021 5:27:58 PM

GREENFIELD — U.S. Sen. Ed Markey stopped by Greenfield City Hall on Tuesday afternoon to meet with Mayor Roxann Wedegartner and Local Linx, a company that operates the MassBroadband 123 network in Western and Central Massachusetts, to discuss Greenfield Community Energy and Technology (GCET), the city’s municipal broadband program.

The junior U.S. senator representing Massachusetts participated in a portion of Monte’s March to raise money for the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts before he and his staff stopped by to learn more about GCET and reiterate the importance of high-speed internet across the state, especially in rural areas. Markey was first taken to City Hall’s basement, where GCET General Manager John Lunt showed him the point of presence (POP).

“This is a pretty simple room. It’s the main routers,” Lunt told Markey over the hum of the equipment. “We have three more rooms like this around the city. We’re about to build a fourth. By spring we’ll have about 96 percent of the town covered.”

Lunt explained GCET, which has about 100 miles of fiberoptic cable around the city, is somewhat unique in that it has its own trucks and built its own network. He also said GCET is about 40 percent less expensive than competitors for internet and about 50 percent cheaper for internet and television.

“We couldn’t get business to come in and, actually, now that the network is up, we have a really major online gaming company that bought a company in Greenfield and elected to stay here because we have better internet connectivity in Greenfield than they do in Los Angeles,” Lunt said.

Everyone then went to the second-floor meeting room to discuss broadband access and its impact on the community.

Greenfield Community College Interim President Richard Hopper told Markey that 12 percent of the college’s classes were conducted online prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that figure is now 80 percent. He said the college’s enrollment is about 1,500 students (with a median age of 27) and many students work jobs and raise families.

“The issue is, community colleges were hit harder than traditional four-year institutions,” Hopper said, adding that the only classes conducted in person have been clinical programs pertaining to health care because hands-on learning is paramount in those fields.

Hopper said he worked in developing countries for 20 years, and rural Bangladesh (a country in South Asia) had superior internet connectivity.

“I moved home to New England 10 years ago and it’s appalling,” he said.

Markey mentioned he was in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar last week to meet with Afghan refugees being evacuated by U.S. forces for resettlement, at which time an Army general told him 98 percent of those individuals use smartphones to confirm their identification.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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